• Samuel Lacrampe
    643
    For the sake of simplicity, the discussion will be limited to moral actions of man towards man, not man towards other beings such as God, angels, animals, plants, or objects.

    (1) The criteria or standard to evaluate the moral value (goodness or badness) of an act is justice. I.e., if the act is just, then it is morally good, and if unjust, then morally bad. It is nonsense to speak of an act which is morally good yet unjust, or morally bad yet just.

    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.

    (3) Under such a definition, justice is objectively evaluated.
    Equality is a mathematical concept that is objective. Equality in treatment is observable, qualifiable, and even quantifiable when measurable goods are involved.

    Example 1: Six persons share a cake. All else being equal, it is just to divide the cake into six equal pieces. Anything else would be unjust.

    Example 2: An employer distributes the year-end profit to the two employees. Employee 1 was twice as productive as employee 2, and all else is equal. It is therefore just to give employee 1 a share worth twice as much as the share given to employee 2. The shares are not equal, but the treatment is equal relative to the productivity of the employees. Thus the just act may be relative, but still objective. To speak in general terms, justice is relative to the factors that determine the just act, but if these factors were the same, then the act would be the same for all men; and sameness is objective. Of course, the factors that serve to influence the decision must be rational, that is, backed up by objective reasons.

    It is acknowledged that other real life examples may be more complex; but the complexity speaks only of the challenge in finding the just act; it does not entail subjectivity, inasmuch as a math problem may be challenging, but its solution remains objective.

    (4) If the criteria to evaluate the moral value of an act is justice, and justice is objective, then morality is objective.
  • BlueBanana
    840
    (1) The criteria or standard to evaluate the moral value (goodness or badness) of an act is justice.Samuel Lacrampe

    That's your opinion.

    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.Samuel Lacrampe

    No, that's just equality. Is killing everyone for no reason just? Justice is defined through morality, not the other way around.

    (4) If the criteria to evaluate the moral value of an act is justice, and justice is objective, then morality is objective.Samuel Lacrampe

    Yes, if justice is objective.

    Example: mercy isn't always just, but it could be argued to be morally right.
  • T Clark
    3k
    (4) If the criteria to evaluate the moral value of an act is justice, and justice is objective, then morality is objective.Samuel Lacrampe

    I like the way you've laid this out and your argument is persuasive. Rather than "justice," I think "fairness" is the right word, but that doesn't change the overall point. I do think that fairness in creation and application is the most important requirement for any set of laws or rules. If everyone gets treated the same, people are unlikely to do things that are too terrible. But that's governance, not morality.

    So, let's see. Is it true that

    The criteria or standard to evaluate the moral value (goodness or badness) of an act is justice.Samuel Lacrampe

    I don't think I buy this. I'll think about it.

    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.Samuel Lacrampe

    As I said, I would say "fairness" but I agree with the definition.

    Under such a definition, justice is objectively evaluated.Samuel Lacrampe

    Definitely don't agree with this, but I'll think more about it.

    morality is objectiveSamuel Lacrampe

    I don't agree, but I like your formulation.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.Samuel Lacrampe

    Subjective.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643
    (1) The criteria or standard to evaluate the moral value (goodness or badness) of an act is justice.
    — Samuel Lacrampe
    That's your opinion.
    BlueBanana
    Example: mercy isn't always just, but it could be argued to be morally right.BlueBanana
    Can you give a concrete example of merciful act? I cannot think of one where the morality is contrary to justice.

    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.
    — Samuel Lacrampe
    No, that's just equality. Is killing everyone for no reason just? Justice is defined through morality, not the other way around.
    BlueBanana
    I think you agree with me that killing everyone for no reason is unjust. And it is unjust precisely because there is an unequal treatment. In this case, because you treat the victims as what pleases you; not them.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643
    Subjective.charleton
    Are you saying the definition of justice is subjective? Definitions of concepts are always objective. If not the case, then the Socratic Method of finding correct definitions would be in vain. At worst, you could say that my definition is wrong and then proceed to explain why.
  • Wayfarer
    6k
    A (slightly edited) response I provided in another thread on a similar question is relevant here.

    'Objectivity' might be spoken of as a criterion for judgement with respect to disciplines such as history, jurisprudence and so on. In such cases, one might criticize subjective bias if it appeared in a historical work or a legal judgement. And historians and judges are expected to avoid subjective judgements, and open to criticism if they don't. But perhaps in these cases, the desired ideal is 'impartiality', which is not quite the same as 'objectivity'. I think the idea of 'impartiality' or 'detachment' has a somewhat broader scope than 'objectivity'. An impartial witness, or impartial judge, is thought to arrive at his or her opinion without self-interest; which is similar to objectivity but not quite the same.

    I think the difficulty I have with 'objectivity' is that it embodies a kind of implicit normative epistemology. It presumes that the criterion of what is real, is that it can be assessed as an object. So implicitly it accepts that the judgement must be grounded in respect of some truly existing object, or a matter of fact which is amenable to precise quantitative analysis. I suppose it seems a rather positivist attitude, which nevertheless presents itself as impartial or disinterested.
    Wayfarer

    So I'm arguing that objectivity as a criterion tends to imply a quantitative, rather than qualitative, judgement. Your example of the division of a cake is clearly quantitative.

    But how to arrive at such criteria for many ethical questions is a much more difficult matter.

    Say you're adjudicating a dispute between claimants to native title of some lands against an industrial interest that wants to develop them for commercial reasons. The latter claimant might argue convincingly that there are economic grounds for development - that many people will benefit through economic development and its associated activity. Whereas the native title claimant may assert that they have a moral right to the land on the basis of their continued occupation of it, even if they readily acknowledge that they have no intention of developing it.

    Then a judgement has to be made as to the relative worth of traditional occupancy vs economic development.

    And I don't see how such a judgement could be described as 'objective'. I think you might be able to arrive at a disinterested or impartial judgement by a party that has no vested interest in the outcome. But it still wouldn't necessarily be described in objective terms, as such.

    It's not that I think moral judgements are 'subjective', but that I think the whole paradigm of 'subjective vs objective' needs to be critiqued.
  • bert1
    119
    (4) If the criteria to evaluate the moral value of an act is justice, and justice is objective, then morality is objective.Samuel Lacrampe

    One human problem is 'What will I do?' Does your conclusion provide a practical solution?
  • BlueBanana
    840
    Can you give a concrete example of merciful act? I cannot think of one where the morality is contrary to justice.Samuel Lacrampe

    Killing someone as a revenge might be just, but not moral.

    I think you agree with me that killing everyone for no reason is unjust. And it is unjust precisely because there is an unequal treatment. In this case, because you treat the victims as what pleases you; not them.Samuel Lacrampe

    I don't see how that is unequal just because there's someone deciding about the nature of that equal treatment.

    Another example, what if you can choose to help one person or multiple people, but if you only help the one person, their gain from the help is greater than the combined gain of the multiple people?
  • Londoner
    54
    (1) The criteria or standard to evaluate the moral value (goodness or badness) of an act is justice. I.e., if the act is just, then it is morally good, and if unjust, then morally bad. It is nonsense to speak of an act which is morally good yet unjust, or morally bad yet just.

    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.

    (3) Under such a definition, justice is objectively evaluated.
    Samuel Lacrampe

    Doesn't our notion of justice involve more than equality of treatment? Equality of treatment implies that 'all men' are equal, yet we know that is not the case. If we only act fairly, meaning give each person an equal slice of cake, then what about the starving person who comes to the table? To treat everyone equally would then be to preserve inequality.

    Let us suppose that the other people at the table give the starving person some extra cake. Must, in the cause of justice/equality they all give the same amount? And if only one person donated their share of cake, do all the remaining shares now become 'unjust'?

    I think that to solve such problems we have to bring in more rules. But once you have more than one rule in play then you can no longer reduce it to a mathematical type calculation and we are back to morality as usual, where people don't agree and can't find way to resolve their disagreements.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Are you saying the definition of justice is subjective? Definitions of concepts are always objective. If not the case, then the Socratic Method of finding correct definitions would be in vain. At worst, you could say that my definition is wrong and then proceed to explain why.Samuel Lacrampe

    Culturally defined. Let's look at what you think defines justice.
    "(2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men."

    The first thing that strikes is the word "men". These days in most civilised societies justice is also offered to women. Odd that you you should hold such an outdated notion.
    Secondly, you strangely use the word "all". I suggest that there is not a single society that has offered justice to all men and women, let alone 'all men'.
    Third, I think you have a big task ahead if you think that people who the society deeds as worthy of justice, shall receive that justice equally.
    Your definition is so bad it's not even wrong. It's nowhere near.

    Saying your definition was subjective , I was being kind.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643
    So I'm arguing that objectivity as a criterion tends to imply a quantitative, rather than qualitative, judgement.Wayfarer
    I agree that what is quantitative is objective, but a thing does not need to be quantitative to be objective. The proposition "what is not quantitative is not objective" is itself not quantitative, which would make it not objectively true; thus making it a self-contradiction.

    Say you're adjudicating a dispute between claimants to native title of some lands against an industrial interest that wants to develop them for commercial reasons. [...]Wayfarer
    Your example points to a moral problem that is challenging, but not subjective. Any judgement which has an objective criterion implies a 'better' or 'worse', depending on how close it gets to meet that criterion. Judgements with subjective criteria don't enter the realm of 'better' or 'worse'. In your example, while the ideal solution may be challenging to attain, there are nevertheless solutions which are clearly better or worse. E.g., siding with one of the two parties is clearly better than kicking both parties off to build your own private mansion. Therefore the problem remains objective.

    Regarding 'impartiality': I agree that it has a place in the topic, but it is not incompatible with 'objectivity'. I argue that a judge must remain impartial precisely because the criterion of judgement is objective.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643

    The practical solution is found through the Golden Rule: "How can I act in a way that I would want others to act towards me?". The golden rule is directly derived from justice, because it demonstrates an equal treatment between yourself and others.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643
    Killing someone as a revenge might be just, but not moral.BlueBanana
    If by 'revenge' you mean "a desire for justice (and nothing beyond it)", then it is not immoral. But if you mean "a desire that goes beyond justice (i.e. swinging the pendulum the other way)", then it is immoral, but also unjust because you are now treating the victim differently than how you would want to be treated.

    I don't see how that is unequal just because there's someone deciding about the nature of that equal treatment.BlueBanana
    To impose your desires on others against their will results in unequal treatment.

    Another example, what if you can choose to help one person or multiple people, but if you only help the one person, their gain from the help is greater than the combined gain of the multiple people?BlueBanana
    This case is similar to example 2 in the OP. The justice is relative to the predicted net gain, and this does not entail unequal treatment, because if the predicted gain was equal in both options, then I would help everyone equally.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643

    Yeah thanks. I think you are correct that I could have used the term 'fairness' in this case too. I think 'justice' is the more general term to account for the treatment of all beings, and 'fairness' is the more narrow term to account for the treatment of beings of the same species only. E.g. It is fair to treat all men as equal, and it is just to treat man as man and animals as animals.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643

    As per example 2 in the OP, justice can be relative to some rational factors. In this case, it is relative to how starving some people are. Giving unequal pieces of cake relative to how starving people are can still result in equality in treatment, because anyone would get a larger piece if that person was starving too.

    To generalize, we can always rely on the golden rule: "I should treat others in a way I would like to be treated if I were in their situation". This is always just, because you treat others as equal to you.
  • Moliere
    1.1k
    In this case, because you treat the victims as what pleases you; not them.Samuel Lacrampe

    If I treat everyone as some sort of means to whatever happens to please me, then everyone is treated by the same rule, and would at least count as equal treatment.

    If I expected everyone else to follow that same rule, then it would even be a kind of rule which applied to me.

    Methinks you need a more robust theory of justice.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643
    The first thing that strikes is the word "men". These days in most civilised societies justice is also offered to women. Odd that you you should hold such an outdated notion.charleton
    Justice should also be offered to children you know; why are you omitting children? :joke:
    By 'men', I mean mankind. A minor misunderstanding.

    Secondly, you strangely use the word "all". I suggest that there is not a single society that has offered justice to all men and women, let alone 'all men'.charleton
    You may be right, but that would merely suggest that no society is completely just; not that justice is subjective.

    Third, I think you have a big task ahead if you think that people who the society deeds as worthy of justice, shall receive that justice equally.charleton
    Are you saying that just people are not necessarily treated justly? Once again, you may be right, but that only speaks of the injustice in the world; it does not entail that justice is subjective. Since morality is about 'what-ought-to-be' and not about 'what-is', you cannot defend or attack a morality based on historical facts.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    643

    To preserve equality in treatment, if you treat others and yourself as you please only, then you would be forced to accept others to treat you, others, and themselves as they please only. But the two behaviours cannot co-exist mutually because what pleases you does not necessarily coincide with what pleases others. Therefore this behaviour is incompatible with justice.
  • Moliere
    1.1k
    To preserve equality in treatment, if you treat others and yourself as you please only, then you would be forced to accept others to treat you, others, and themselves as they please only.Samuel Lacrampe

    Yup. I agree that the notion of equality posited here would lead to something along those lines.

    But the two behaviours cannot co-exist mutually because what pleases you does not necessarily coincide with what pleases others.Samuel Lacrampe

    The principle of the matter can co-exist, though. If I and everyone treated everyone and themselves exactly as they pleased there is nothing contradictory in that. It's completely equitable in that everyone is treating people in the same manner. Whether we succeed is another matter altogether.

    But I do not think that the principle is exactly a just one. Which is why I was thinking there would need to be more to justice than mere equality.
  • Cabbage Farmer
    157
    Why do you believe morality is subjective?"Samuel Lacrampe
    I don't say morality is subjective. I say that moral feelings, impulses, attitudes, judgments, values, ends.... vary from one person and from one cultural context to another, though it seems there are common biological bases to all that variety, rooted in our nature as human animals.

    (1) The criteria or standard to evaluate the moral value (goodness or badness) of an act is justice. I.e., if the act is just, then it is morally good, and if unjust, then morally bad. It is nonsense to speak of an act which is morally good yet unjust, or morally bad yet just.Samuel Lacrampe
    I'm inclined to suspect this is an oversimplification, but let's see where it leads.

    (2) Justice is defined as: equality in treatment among all men.Samuel Lacrampe
    This oversimplification I can't accept. I might allow that equality or proportionateness in treatment is required of any conception of justice, but it seems to me this is only one condition of a conception of justice, not by itself an adequate conception of justice.

    For instance, if a man assaults anyone who looks at him crooked, I don't call his action "just" and "good" in light of the fact that he treats all his victims the same.

    Something in addition to such proprtionality is required before an act counts as "just".

    (3) Under such a definition, justice is objectively evaluated.
    Equality is a mathematical concept that is objective. Equality in treatment is observable, qualifiable, and even quantifiable when measurable goods are involved.
    Samuel Lacrampe
    According to my above argument, the definition has yet to be specified. All we know is, a concept of equality or proportionality must factor into the characterization somehow. But how? And what else can or must factor into our characterization of justice?

    Example 1: Six persons share a cake. All else being equal, it is just to divide the cake into six equal pieces. Anything else would be unjust.Samuel Lacrampe
    Not so.

    One of us says the pieces should be the same size.

    Another says the size of the cake should be proportionate to the weight of the consumers.

    Another says it's the weight of the cake, not its volume, that should be measured. Another says either weight or volume will suffice, but we should make a distinction between the fit and the unfit among the consumers: We should give a piece proportionate to the weight of each fit person, and then skew the proportion so that those consumers who are too light get a bigger piece than the piece given to those who are fit, and those who are too heavy get a piece smaller than the piece given to those who are fit....

    It's not clear that any one of these suggestions is "more just" than the others.

    This illustrates the way in which the concept of equality or proportionality is insufficient to determine an adequate conception of justice.

    (4) If the criteria to evaluate the moral value of an act is justice, and justice is objective, then morality is objective.Samuel Lacrampe
    As I've argued above: Even if we grant that the morality or "goodness" of an act can be evaluated purely in terms of a conception of justice, and even if we grant that equality or proportionality is essential to any conception of justice, it has not been shown that there is an objective standard by which to arrive at a single noncontroversial definition of justice adequate to this purpose.
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